September Snapshot

My mom’s started going back to school to get her certification in Spanish Translation. I give her so much credit. She’s the strongest, most determined woman I know. I’m listening to her now doing her homework. She has to listen to these audio passages (some in English, some in Spanish) and then translate them and discern their meanings. They’re legal passages; I suppose examples of courtroom/law scenarios. She keeps repeating how hard it is. I can only imagine – and even that feels like an understatement.

I’m watching the 49ers game on mute while she does this, as to not disturb her. Also, I only have Vernon Davis and Phil Dawson in this game (on my fantasy team) and I’ve already won my matchup. I’ve been really getting into football, and can’t really figure out as to why. I think about it a lot. Like, “Why football? Why now?” Without sounding too cliche or pathetic, maybe it gives me something to believe in. Something to understand and formulate ideas and opinions on, without having it be so serious.

I’m also listening to Nonna in the next room. She gets these belching/indigestion attacks sometimes. She can’t stop and she becomes really uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s caused by antibiotics (which she’s on right now), so it’s probably that because she didn’t really eat anything crazy today that would’ve caused it. I hope she sleeps well tonight. My mom too. Both of them had difficulty falling asleep last night, whereas I went out like a light and slept a good 8 hours. I had a busy day yesterday.

My brother is in marching band. He plays trombone. It’s his first year. Hard work, but he loves it a lot. The team had a breakfast at the high school, and I told him I’d come out to support him. The cafeteria was freezing. I didn’t end up eating anything, as I try to stay away from gluten and dairy on the regular, so I just had some tea. The band had a really awesome performance. They have a really great sound and when you watch them, you can tell they’re all really into it – which I think is great. They were supposed to perform outside, but there was construction and it looked like rain. So they ended up playing in the auditorium – which was also freezing. I brought a hoodie but felt bad for my dad because he didn’t have anything. He ended up putting his arms in his shirt the whole time. I thought it was hilarious.

But anyway, we didn’t get to see the band’s steps, but they did perform on the stage with the drum majors switching every now and then. Even though I couldn’t see my brother (he was in the back with the other trombones), I almost cried a few times. Some of those chords got me right in the feels. Aside from the performance, I was really glad I went because I was able to talk to an old history teacher. He’s definitely one of my top 3 favorite high school teachers, and I was lucky enough to have him for two years – freshman and senior year. He’s the principal now, and it was cool to just kick it with him for a few and chat and laugh about things. It made me feel good about life for awhile.

And I suppose that’s what it’s all about.

I just glanced back at the TV: Chicago scored a touchdown. Niners are up by 10. The game’s a little less than half over. Kaepernick just got a first down. I was expecting Vernon Davis to at least get a touchdown or something. But I guess there’s still time. They’re in the redzone now.

Nonna turned in early. My mom helped put her to bed, despite my insisting that I do it since she has to do her homework. I’m alway railing on her, making sure she’s focusing and not on Facebook – funny how tables turn. Ha! It’s not easy is it?!

I hope the Niners win. I hope I get a call from one of the three companies I interviewed with last week. I hope things work out with a minimum of casualties and unnecessary pain and suffering. Not just in my life, but in other lives. I want to be able to look back on my choices with a smile and someone to hold close at the end of the night.

To close my eyes and feel okay.

Because that’s peace.

And peace opens you up.

I want to be open and accept the good – and the bad.

Because OM.

There you are.

5 Days of Gratitude Challenge – Day 1

My good friend Ashley nominated me for this 5 Days of Gratitude challenge via Facebook but because I’m a firm believer in not posting anything over “x” number of characters on The ‘book, I’ve decided to complete it here. (If you’ve clicked on this from Facebook, it also gives you more incentive to read my blog ;))

But anyway – Here it goes:

  1. I’m super grateful for my parents – and even that’s an understatement. Overall, they have been loving and supportive of all my post-college endeavors, even though I haven’t landed a job – yet! They encourage me in all my creative pursuits whether it be in baking, reading, or blogging, and without them I would be very lost. I used to think it was cool to be considered separate from parents but over the past few years I’ve begun to realize they are my biggest assets and my loudest cheerleaders. I will forever be grateful to their advice, humor, and support.
  2. I’m grateful for the ability to read and write. When you take into account the destitute and uneducated parts of the world, you recognize just how much you have to be thankful for. Sometimes I feel like such a spoiled brat having loathed going to school, especially in high school. Because I know there are kids out there who would jump at the chance to read a book or learn how to spell. It’s a shame what we take for granted these days. I was reading some Spinoza just before I began writing this. Imagine if I didn’t have that luxury, especially as a woman? It’s crazy to think about.
  3. Nonna. I will always be grateful that my Nonna is still with me and my family. The doctors and nurses who see her already admit she’s beaten the odds thus far. At 86, she definitely has her laundry list of issues and diagnoses but she is alive, well as can be, cognizant, intelligent. She’s practically sailed around the world emigrating back and forth from Australia, Italy, and finally the US. She survived World War II on the losing side (seriously, she has stories about living in some caves while being bombarded by the Allies). I happily care for her, cook for her, give her her pills, laugh, joke, and sing with her. She has a story for everything and helps me perfect my Italian. I love her very much.

Vulnerable Snapshot

Last week I cried watching Dead Poets Society.

I don’t know why this is important, but I feel like it is.

Maybe it’s because seeing Neil kill himself and knowing Robin Williams suffered a similar fate…I don’t know. I used to cry watching the movie before, but now it’s a whole other ballgame.

My Nonna came home from her rehab center today. Now that I think about it, she’s been gone for about a month. She was at the hospital before the rehab center. She basically threw herself into congestive heart failure in the hospital emergency room, freaking out and being overdramatic about pain in her knee. Not to discount her pain. I know she was in a lot of it. But if you know Nonna, you know she has a flair for the overdramatic. Her anxiety and constant hyperventilating was more than enough to make her body fill her lungs with water. The doctors called it “flash pulmonary edema”. I was there with my mom that night, and I meant to write about the whole experience but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I kept procrastinating it.

And maybe there’s not so much to say anymore aside from the fact this was the second time I accompanied my mom to the hospital for a Nonna-related incident. This trip scared me the most though. I tried to breathe with her to steady her breath as the doctors and nurses and technicians were hooking her up to machines to get her to breathe right; In that moment I felt my tears well up. I tried to ignore them, realizing I was breathing more for me than for her. My mom and I didn’t get home ’til about a quarter to four in the morning.

The first Nonna hospital emergency room trip I experienced, I couldn’t help feeling that it was some coming-of-age trial that Life was throwing at me. Demanding me to grow up. Life gets real serious in hospitals.

I don’t know if there’s a point in telling you all this, but maybe I just felt it needed to be said.

I baked Gluten-Free/Dairy Free Orange Creme Cupcakes today, for Nonna. She liked them. She seems to like everything I bake so I’m not sure if she really did or not or if she’d ever tell me otherwise. And although I grated part of my thumb while making orange zest, I’m definitely getting better at making icing. Definitely not one of my strong suits. I always tend to fuck it up somehow. Today was the closest it came to being perfect. I think I had too much liquid/not enough sugar. Next time. It’s always a learning experience and that’s okay. And that goes for everything.

I’m really glad Nonna’s home. I thought I wouldn’t be. No offense to her, but it was kind of like a nice break for my family and me. I could be more liberal with dinner choices, my mom was sleeping all the way though the night without having to wake up to check on her. I could also walk around my room as early or as late as I liked (she sleeps in the room below mine). But now it’s nice to hear her voice again and feel her skin and give her hugs for no reason and have her taste my cupcakes. She’s definitely stronger and in less pain than the last time she was here – and I’m happy for that.

You know, last week I did take out a part of my day to mourn Robin Williams death. I made sure I was alone and just encouraged the tears to come. They did. And after I had cried I felt like a weight had been lifted, and I’m still not sure why that happens – why it feels like such a relief. My head felt lighter. I talked to the air for a bit and then got a tissue and cleaned myself up.

So I thank you for reading this vulnerable snapshot into my life. It just feels nice to share sometimes.

The 9/11 Syndrome

I live about 20 minutes from Newark, so give or take I’m about 30 minutes from Newark Airport. Everyday I hear planes fly over my neighborhood.  Everyday.  One’s flying over as I’m writing this now.  One flew over as I made the decision to write this, about less than 5 minutes ago.

I try not to watch much TV.  Most of it’s garbage anyway, I know.  But sometimes I get into these weird documentary obsessions. The retelling of history, a person, an era; It really gets to me, it really touches my soul, gets me to think about myself and the world around me.  I don’t know.  I love that stuff.  I think I always have.  Even in school I didn’t mind it.  I really enjoyed it when the teacher would put on a documentary.  But it’s when 9/11 documentaries come on, I get sucked into this black hole.

I got into a passionate discussion with my 14-year-old brother a few hours ago.  I had just started watching a documentary on the 9/11 Commission Report and was trying to explain to him how our government failed us that day; How the loss of innocent life is unacceptable in any situation and how it breaks my heart.  He asked me why I watch these documentaries, why I put myself through it.  I watched another one last night before I went to bed and my mom walked in and said, “Oh, I can’t watch those things.  I’ll always remember, I’ll never forget what happened.  It was a tragedy.  But I can’t put myself to sit down and watch those things.  It’s depressing.”  “Well, maybe we should get depressed about it,” I said.  Maybe we should feel something other than complacency.

I tried to explain to my brother the analysis that goes on in my head.  I was 10 years old when 9/11 happened and out of all the stories I’ve heard, my perspective still remains the clearer than anything. And that’s probably true with everyone because in times of crisis or mental trauma, that’s when our memory receptors kick in – That’s when the film starts rolling and everything your eyes touch and any stray emotion you feel become permanently ingrained in your memory banks.  But at 10 years old, you can’t process or even begin to fathom the actuality of the situation and what it means.  At that age, you’re still immature.  Hell, you haven’t even gone through puberty yet.  You’re a kid.  A kid who can’t see past recess, foursquare, and the 3:30 bell to go home.

Now I’m older, more matured, educated, analytical.  I watch these things and try to come to terms with where our country went wrong – The mythological idea of a country a typical 10 year old grows up believing is perfect and right and just and true and free.  I try to put myself into the shoes of an Al Qaeda soldier.  But the truth is, when I do that I can’t feel my feet.  Because I can’t fully invest myself in that temporary fantasy.  I do not understand the hatred and rage or the “death to America” sentimentality they feel towards us.  Maybe it’s because I’m still too young to understand and/or because my knowledge of American History starts to fade after the Kennedy years and I draw blanks about what comes after, what our country did, how the international community currently views us and why.  Maybe it’s because I know little to nothing about Al Qaeda, their cause, or their struggle.  In any case, it’s when watching these documentaries I am desperately trying to understand the viewpoints from all sides in order to come up with some logical explanation to what happened that day.  And it’s a struggle every time because I can’t do it; Logic fails.  Logic seems not to apply to tragedy and we are told to accept it as the transcendent horror that it is. Am I what Billie Joe Armstrong would brazenly call an “American Idiot“?  Maybe.  But maybe not as I am truly trying to understand.  Sometimes I feel my whole life is a Coming-of-Age story and it’s just one lesson after another.

See, I’m no stranger to trauma.  I was the first child born in my family – First daughter, first niece, first grandchild. I was showered with constant love and affection and got to know my entire family in a way that neither my four cousins nor my brother got to experience.  My grandfather emigrated to the US from Sicily in 1968.  He had bore three children with my grandmother – all girls. He had always wanted a boy, but as fate would have it – girls were in the cards.  I think he may have been hoping for a boy when my mom was pregnant with me but as fate would have it – another girl.  I have watercolor memories of spending time with him, laughing and playing with him.  Because both of my parents worked full time, I spent an majority of my childhood with my grandparents before I was able to be enrolled in school.  I especially used to love it when Poppy pushed me around in one of those red Little Tikes cars with the yellow roof.  Remember those? I think there’s pictures somewhere…

In the winter of 1993 my family was over Nonna’s house.  We were watching TV, talking intermittently.  I was sitting next to Poppy. And all of a sudden someone said something to him, and he didn’t respond.  It was at that time everyone looked at him and realized he was having a stroke.  At the early stages of my toddlerhood I still remember his wide open eyes as he sat next to me unable to speak, the panic that ensued immediately afterwards as the paramedics were called.  And right before my memory starts blurring, right before – I remember struggling with the little Italian I knew to ask him if he wanted a glass of water.  I didn’t understand what was happening, but at three years old, I could feel the tension and sense of panic in the room and was so desperately trying to communicate to ease his discomfort in the only way I knew how.  And it haunts me.  To this day it haunts me.  And everyday I think about it and every night before I go to sleep I try to erase it from my mind so I can sleep easy. And then I wake up again and it will cross my mind and I will it away before it enters again.  And sometimes I cry about it.  And sometimes I try not to cry about it.  I get tired blubbering to my mom, unable to speak because I’m so grief stricken over this toddler trauma I’m not sure anyone truly understands – I don’t even know if I understand it.  And I dream of him sometimes and I wake up crying; In the latest one about a month ago we actually spoke.  But the funny thing is, when we spoke it was just like that night – me trying to scrape together the little Italian to knew to ask him questions – stupid questions like, “How are you?”, “What’s your favorite color?” and “Do you like music?”.  He died soon after his stroke on a cold December day that year and I don’t think I’ll ever let it go because in my juvenile, naive state of mind  I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand why it happened or ever got the closure I needed – whatever the proper “closure” would’ve been to a three year old anyway.

In my heart, I connect this monumental, national trauma to my personal one.  There are parallels of paralysis – wanting to help but can’t, shattering of innocence, loss of innocent life; Vivid memories, crystal-clear emotions, each individual trauma a scar on my childhood, a mark on my youth that cannot be erased.  And maybe I’m obsessed with understanding.  In my entire 22 years of life that has been so dedicated to learning, maybe it is a habit I cannot break out of and every time I replay the events, I’m determined to find the answer; I’m determined to find out why it happened.  It’s the 9/11 Syndrome.  It happens every year, like the opposite of a holiday: We revisit the past in waking daydream states and unconscious dreams to try and fix the unfixable. 9 times out of 10 we believe with all our hearts that logic will lead to unbiased truth and when that truth comes, everything will be okay; It’s a flaw in the human mind.  It’s a cycle I feel I will never break out of.  My grandfather has been gone 20 years this December.  Windows on The World, where my dad proposed to my mom, is now only existent in memories.  And I will revisit these events in my head, listen to every heartbreaking story, and watch every heart-wrenching documentary because I am in a Catch 22.  For all the lives lost, I must remember; And if I can’t remember everything or everyone, I should at least try at my very best to see that I do.

In The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell says throughout human history, you can tell what’s most important within a society by looking at the tallest buildings.  Obviously, churches and other religious structures were the tallest buildings at one point in time and that emphasized the importance of religion. But then there was the rise of modern architecture and skyscrapers and colossal business buildings.  Those are the tallest buildings in our society today – The buildings dedicated to the ebb and flow of corporate capitalism and commerce.

Joseph Campbell also believed in religion as metaphor.  I take his belief and apply that to reality as well – I believe that our realities speak to us metaphorically (indiviudally and as a people) and that it is up to us to understand them, so that we may navigate this life to find our appropriate path. (For more on my personal experience reality as metaphor, please see my Dragonfly post).  When the Towers fell 12 years ago, I believe that was a universal metaphor for the demise of the corporate world as almost exactly seven years later, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, which began the avalanche of the most recent American recession which we have not fully recovered from.  As a nation, our trust in government and business was shattered.  And it is nowhere near being regained.  Once trust is broken, it is very hard to gain it back.  When you let someone down or a community down or a nation down, it takes a long time before they can look you in the eye again and take what you say at face value.   That goes for everyone, no matter their party designation, financial well-being, or societal stature.

On 9/11, I was very lucky.  I was not physically harmed and at the end of the day, my friends and entire family were unscathed, alive, and breathing. But as a human being where compassion is in my nature, is in all of our natures, I cannot help but relive the tragedy at least once a year.  It is a ritual I feel I must undergo in an attempt to comprehend what happened those people (and their families) who gave their lives that day less than 20 miles away from my elementary school, where at 10 years old, my world was suddenly changed forever. Emotions are a potent thing.  Sometimes they help more than harm and sometimes it’s the other way around.  But emotions can inspire us and lift us and propel us to make a better future for tomorrow.  We can aim our electrically charged dissatisfactions to accomplish something positive and great; There’s no need to be angry or hateful or complacent. We just need a positive attitude and clear head and the willingness to try.  Even if hurts, I will undergo the ritual annually. Eternity is always, future is everything.  It will all go on whether or not mankind is here to witness it.  And I prefer to stay until it is my time to go.